Who’s keeping the media honest?

Published: October 26, 2011
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How long will journalists compromise their integrity, by just focussing on selling big, for a fat pay cheque?

There was once a famous conspiracy theory which accused news media of pandering to a select lobby and manipulating the masses. For quite some time, I dismissed such claims as grade ‘A’ YouTube regurgitations. However, as social media evolved and began providing more than just couch entertainment, it became increasingly clear that everything is not black and white.

The events of this year, from the Arab Spring to the ongoing ‘Occupy’ protests world wide remind us that technology has, as always, favoured freedom. Real time availability of news from all quarters of the world is a press of a button away on your smart phone. And so, it is difficult to understand why internationally renowned news groups continue to disappoint an increasingly informed audience.

Occupy protests

Western media mostly ignored the protests on Wall Street initially.  But as the numbers and persistence of the protesters grew, the media were soon forced to attend the festivities. Even when the media giants arrived at the party, they unanimously portrayed the protesters as dead beats of society congregating to cause disruption. Sound bytes repeated in print and TV all said the same thing, “the protesters have no real goal”. Thus, giving the listener the idea that these protesters are simply wasting time. Indeed, millions will have believed this. That is, until you start to seek out the information you want elsewhere. Al Jazeera ran one of the best news reports on why the media is blacking out the protests. I am not claiming that Al Jazeera is carrying the flag for truth, but at least they remind their audience that in this day in age, it is unacceptable to blame media hypocrisy for lack of information, as it’s readily available. Fat chance you’ll ever hear CNN say that.

Who is Ron Paul?

Another example of the US media’s hypocrisy is in their ignorance towards famous American GOP candidate, Ron Paul.

If you don’t know who this man is  it’s not your fault. He has been a victim of media black out because he is the only vociferous anti-war politician. He may as well be the most consistent and earnest politician in the world, yet he is sidelined by the media.

Paul’s anti-establishment, pro-libertarian stance is gaining immense popularity. His message of freedom, peace and a return to strict adherence to the American constitution are crucial. Any one who has read the American constitution will agree that it is one of the finest set of governing principles for any country to follow. It is what makes America great. Instead of being showered with attention, this man is being ignored by the powers who have control. Paul’s popularity is growing thanks to the social media, and also due to unlikely sources. This brilliant segment from comedian Jon Stewart showed the world how ignorant and manipulative the news media can be.

Here in Pakistan

We see examples of such blatant ignorance by the media in Pakistan too. While some news organizations will go to great lengths to blast Imran Khan and other politicians, they will hold back their tirade on other notorious political parties. Lucman may invite Ali Azmat to propagate deranged conspiracy theories for viewers but such fear generating mechanisms are common all over the world. Fox News does this on a nightly basis. So, the question that arises is, why does the society of journalists sit quietly and let all this slide?

In New York Times

The New York Times issue from October 18 featured two front page pictures. One showing Israeli children playing merrily and the other showing an angry looking militia man from Palestine holding a gun. Who needs words when pictures speak a thousand? The contrast between the pictures showed exactly which side the reader should sympathize with.

Another news paper in Toronto carried the headline “terrorists, killers released in exchange for Shalit”. Needless to say, it failed to mention if the released prisoners were ever given fair trial or that some of them were children.  Given the overwhelming support for Palestine in the recent UN General Assembly, it is surprising that the media and journalists turned their backs to the oppressed people. Is it safe to say then, that these so-called journalists are bought out and paid for not doing their job, but to forward propaganda? The jury is out there.

How long will this trend continue before the news giants realize that their credibility is sinking? How long will it take for the community of journalists to come together to support the truth and shun sell outs? And so ring words from the recent movie, Contagion. Jude Law plays the role of a famous investigative blogger whose crucial story is denied a place in a big newspaper by the editor. As he storms out of the office, he yells to the editor:

“Print media is dying, Lorraine. . .I’ll save you a seat on the bus”.

These words ought to resonate loud and clear for journalists who compromise their integrity for a fat pay cheque.

said.chaudhry

Said Chaudhry

A doctor and cricket fanatic who blogs at saidcanblog.blogspot.com and tweets @saidation

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.